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Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals game unlikely to resume: Impact on NFL Playoff race

The Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals entered Monday night’s Week 17 outing with aspirations of earning home-field advantage throughout the AFC Playoffs.

Once the clock struck midnight in Cincinnati, this was the least of their concerns. Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed in the first quarter after laying a hit on Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.

What followed was among the scariest things we’ve seen on a football field in some time. Emergency personnel came on to the field inside Paycor Stadium to give Hamlin CPR after he suffered cardiac arrest.

The second-year safety was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he remains in critical condition as of Wednesday evening. As Hamlin’s health improves, some of the focus has turned to the Week 18 schedule and the NFL Playoffs.

Per this note from Mike Florio’s Pro Football Talk, things are trending in the direction of the Bills-Bengals game not being resumed. Remember, the game was suspended following the scary incident invvolving Hamlin. One day later, and the NFL announced it would not be resumed in Week 18. But the league left all options open.

In this scenario, Cincinnati will take on the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon to conclude its regular season. As of right now, Buffalo is still slated to host the division-rival New England Patriots at the same time. It sets up a convoluted playoff scenario around the league.

Related: NFL Playoff and Super Bowl predictions

NFL Playoff picture if Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals game isn’t resumed

buffalo bills, cincinnati bengals, nfl playoffs
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

To understand the context, we have to look at the current AFC standings heading into Week 18.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs: 13-3
  2. Buffalo Bills: 12-3
  3. Cincinnati Bengals: 11-4
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars: 8-8
  5. Los Angeles Chargers: 10-6
  6. Baltimore Ravens: 10-6
  7. New England Patriots: 8-8

If the game doesn’t resume, common logic suggests that the AFC Playoffs would be seeded by winning percentage given that Cincinnati and Buffalo will end the season playing one fewer game than their AFC counterparts.

In this scenario, Cincinnati clinches the AFC North title before it even takes to the field against Baltimore on Sunday. Kansas City would then clinch the No. 1 seed, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Las Vegas Raiders Saturday afternoon.

On the field, this would be an unfortunate turn of events for the Buffalo Bills. They entered Week 17 controlling their own destiny for home-field advantage in the conference.

Getting a week off would’ve helped from both the football perspective and the mental health of the Bills after what they saw Monday night. That’s now highly unlikely to be the case if this scenario plays out.

Assuming things hold with Kansas City taking out a bad Raiders team and other likely scenarios coming into play, this is how the AFC Wild Card matchups would look like.

  • New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
  • Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars

Talk about an anomaly with two Week 18 games being repeated during the wild card round.

Of course, all of this is dependent on Hamlin’s health moving forward. Right now, that’s pretty much all the Buffalo Bills are thinking about.